Miracle on 34th Street

I was talking with someone about this yesterday. A real opportunity exists out there to become the Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street. You know, the guy who recommends going to the competitor’s store to find the item on the child’s wishlist if Macy’s doesn’t have it?
Who is going to step up to that role for SOA? By definition an SOA is a style of design or architectural blueprint, not a technology. Therefore an SOA cannot be dependent upon any particular technology implementation, let alone a single vendor’s product.
Yet we still hear from SOA vendors statements like: “The first question to answer when thinking about an SOA is which vendor to select.” This is of course completely backwards. The first thing to think about is the design and only later about its implementation.
Furthermore, if I am a vendor working with customers on mapping technology to SOA designs, I almost certainly know that any single vendor cannot supply every bit of technology for every implementation requirement. Or that even if it can, the vendor does not always have the best product in its class, or the best fit for each and every requirement.
What we need isn’t more self-serving statements that customers have every right to distrust. What we need are honest assessments of vendor capabilities, and the ability to reference, without prejudice, the products of other vendors when they are a better fit than your own.
And I’d like this all in time for Christmas, please 😉

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5 responses to “Miracle on 34th Street

  1. Hello Eric,
    you’re absolutely right in a ideal world. In fact, in every paper I write about SOA (in Le Monde Informatique, a french cousin of Infoworld/Computerworld), I make this statement again and again : SOA is not a technology, nor is a vendor more SOA than another… But, are we in an ideal world ? There are multiple paths to SOA, and every system integrator I talk to tells me it’s a hell, or, at least, a long long long and difficult road… So the idea of selecting one vendor and relying on him can be easier, don’t you think ? Yet, it has to be a big platform (or “applistructure”) vendor, so that does not fit with Iona’s best of breed strategy…

  2. Olivier,
    While a reporter intern a long time ago, the managing editor advised us not to let the business make us cynical.
    It is very hard to do.
    My blog contains a disclaimer saying that the views here are mine alone and not the views of IONA. Also, no one at IONA tells me what to write about (although I do receive suggestions from time to time). And it is true that what I write about often intersects with the interests of IONA, because I am interested in my work.
    But does this mean whatever I say is suspect? Cannot a vendor do what I suggest? Does everything a vendor says have to be interpreted as self-serving?
    At Digital we were told to tell the truth about our products, even disclose their shortcomings rather than deceive the customer. Among other things, it is good business to do so.
    Customer service today is growing in importance. For example, even the cell phone companies have gotten past their initial arrogance and try to give you a good experience when you call for help or have a question about your minutes.
    Some of our customers are very interested in best of breed. Deutsche Post would be among them, for example. I wrote about participating in their SOA Days recently. They said this quite bluntly.
    Massimo Pezzini from Gartner at the same event said that what customers need is an “SOA Backplane” but it isn’t something you can buy from any single vendor.
    Should we not put ourselves in the customers’ shoes, and imagine a software industry in which customer service is more important than vendor lock in? And helping customers build the best “SOA Backplane” is in everyone’s interests?
    Surely this is the main message of the “miracle,” that we can actually believe it since in the end it is good business to help the customer.

  3. Thank you for taking some time to answer. Again, I don’t mean you’re not right (I appreciate your blog, you are in my RSS feeds from the beginning), and I agree that I may become a little bit cynical… Well, I have the chance to talk to many people, vendors, analysts, SIs, customers… and it’s hard not be cynical when you hear them 😉
    Anyway, I think Iona has a good techno – as DEC had, and I wish you not to have the same end !
    Oh, by the way, Iona spokepersons allways tell me about The Deutsche Post example ; time to find another happy customer 😉
    And By the way (2), I just had this morning a one-to-one meeting with BEA execs, who told me they wanted to be the Switzerland of integration software… It seems that they agree with you, they’re now talking of coexistence with IBM or Microsoft.
    Have a good day,
    Olivier

  4. Hi Olivier,
    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. This is actually the best thing about having a blog.
    Thanks also for the compliment about our technology, and actually I used to worry a lot about that, just after I joined, since the atmosphere at IONA reminded me of Digital. But today we have a new management team, including a real marketing manager!
    Yes, we do need to find another good customer reference. You are right. Actually we have some good deployments of Artix in the U.S. that we are asked not to talk about publicly. So it is hard to find both qualities at once – a happy customer and one who is willing to talk publicly about what they are doing. Hopefully we will have a new one soon, though.
    Yes, it is very interesting about BEA. I was presenting our ESB to Mitre this morning. They had invited 9 ESB vendors to present their solutions, challenging us to describe how our ESB would interoperate with other ESBs in a multi-ESB environment. For us this is no problem since most ESBs are JMS based and we interoperate easily across multiple JMS implementations already. And I gave our usual presentation about separating the logical part of WSDL from its physical deployment, allowing us to support multi protocols and formats. Both the BEA guys in the audience came up to me afterwards to say they liked my presentation… 😉
    This kind of thing is good for the industry. We need to foster and encourage vendor cooperation since it benefits the customer. Our challenge of course is to deliver on this promise, as is BEA’s.
    Eric

  5. Hi Eric,
    I’ve looked around this evening to see what representatives from different vendors were saying about SOA, and yours is the only article I found that I whole-heartedly agree with. Congrats on a great blog and a nice article.
    BTW, I discuss and attempt to de-hype SOA from a different perspecitve over on colmsmyth.blogspot.com, I’d welcome your views on it.
    All the best,
    Colm.